In Depth

Which countries do not celebrate Christmas?

The festive season passes unmarked in fewer than 20 of the world’s nations

Christmas is celebrated differently all over the world, with most countries ringing in the holiday season with their own traditions and practices.

But of the nearly 200 countries on Earth, a handful of non-Christian nations don’t recognise Christmas and have no form of public holiday or observation to mark the nativity of Jesus Christ.

At least 40 countries don’t have official public holidays at Christmas, though more than half of these nations do have at least some form of public observation, such as the occasional Christmas tree.

Here are the remaining 18 countries in which the populations do not observe Christmas in any way at all:

Afghanistan

The Muslim-majority nation has had a turbulent relationship with Christianity and its holidays for decades, and particularly since the Taliban rule of the 1990s. As a result, Christmas is almost never celebrated here, with those that choose to do so running the risk of persecution.

Algeria

Another Muslim-majority nation, Algeria has not observed Christmas in any official capacity since it gained its independence from France, a mostly Catholic nation, in 1962.

Bhutan

With a Christian population of just 10,000 (less than 1% of the country’s total), Christmas is not part of the Bhutanese calendar, where Buddhism takes precedence.

Brunei

The public celebration of Christmas has been banned in the tiny oil-rich Islamic state of Brunei since 2015, with anyone found violating the law facing up to five years in jail or a fine of US $20,000, or both.

Although non-Muslims are allowed to celebrate the holiday within their own communities, they are not allowed to share their plans with the country’s Muslims, who make up about two-thirds of the population.

According to the country’s Ministry of Religious Affairs, the rules are “intended to control the act of celebrating Christmas excessively and openly, which could damage the aqidah (creed) of the Muslim community”.

China

According to the Daily Express, Christmas in China is “another working day and schools, offices and shops all remain open”, adding: “The country is officially a non-religious state, so Christmas was once completely banned.”

Comoros

At 98% Sunni Muslim, the Comoros archipelago in the Indian Ocean takes a firm stance against Christianity. WorldAtlas reports that the open practice of Christianity is prohibited, and Comoros has “been on the World Watch list for the past 22 years for the persecution of Christians”. 

Libya

What’s left of the government in this lawless, predominantly Muslim nation does not observe Christmas. However, 24 December is the country’s independence day, so expect a party then instead.

Mauritania

The government of Mauritania, despite having a small population of Christians within its borders, chooses not to recognise them at all, with the most recent census claiming that 100% of the country is Muslim.

Mongolia

The overwhelmingly Buddhist nation of Mongolia does not observe any public holidays around Christmas, and few Christians live here.

North Korea

Something of an outlier on this list is North Korea, where the country’s extreme, authoritarian interpretation of atheism as supposedly laid out in communist doctrine has led to the total outlawing of all things Christmas.

Pakistan

The country’s extremely small Christian population “remains full of insecurity” about celebrating Christmas, according to news site Parhlo, and there can be a “threat to the lives of the people celebrating the events”. The day of 25 December is a public holiday in Pakistan, but to commemorate the birthday of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, considered to be the founder of the nation.

Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic

Christmas is a non-event among the predominantly Islamic population of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, a partially recognised state that claims sovereignty over the entire territory of Western Sahara.

Saudi Arabia

Christmas trees or the holding of any Christmas-related festivals has been banned for decades in Saudi Arabia, says Al Bawaba.

Somalia

In 2015, Somalia, which adopted Sharia law in 2009, banned the celebration of Christmas outright, warning that such Christian festivities could threaten the nation’s Muslim faith.

Tajikistan

The same year, the mostly secular former Soviet state of Tajikistan outlawed Christmas trees and gift-giving at schools.

Tunisia

Although Christmas is not banned here, Tunisia has almost no public celebrations of the holiday and it is a regular work day for the country.

Uzbekistan

Despite almost 10% of the country being Eastern Orthodox Christians, Christmas is not celebrated here. Instead, Uzbekistan’s New Year celebrations closely resemble our Christmas festivities, complete with trees and the exchange of gifts. However, it is a secular holiday.

Yemen

The war-torn state of Yemen has not officially observed Christmas for decades.

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